Wall Art Plaster party day!

You are invited to an art-making day on the earthbag wall at Sunflower River! Parts two and three!

Saturday, October 14, 1 – 5 p.m.

and Saturday, Oct 21st 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Come make art on our earthbag wall! The theme is plants & animals, and we invite you to come sculpt a bas-relief plant or animal on the interior of the Sunflower River property wall! Some specific things we are looking for include: dragonflies, flowers and plants, and a roadrunner! We’re also open to suggestions from you, the artists!

The material we’ll use to sculpt is a cementacious plaster mix (contains portland cement, lime, sand and water), so gloves are required. We’ll have a box of nitrile gloves available, as well as sculpting tools (we’ve found that plastic knives are the perfect thing).

Through trial-and-error, we have learned that the best process has been to have a photo of the thing you want to make, and then use the photo as a reference to create a charcoal sketch on the wall (we have charcoal), and then build up the sculpture from there.

We would love, love, love to have some more awesome art up on the wall this year! Come play! We hope to see you there!

10-Year Retrospective Photo Post

Sometime during the first part of our first year, we picked up a book called the Encyclopedia of Country Living. It gave us the sage advice that we would overestimate what we could accomplish in one year — and dramatically underestimate what we could accomplish in ten. We have held to that as a hopeful spar when we were floundering with the unmovable weight of Too Much To Do over the years. And while the last ten years have definitely not gone precisely as our first few ten-year plans would have predicted, we have also definitely accomplished a lot more than we anticipated! Mahazda and the wall are hands-down the two biggest and most noticable infrastructure projects, but we have also accomplished a hundred smaller projects that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives now. Sometimes how far we have come is eclipsed by all we yet mean to do, so it helps to take a moment and reflect back on the changes. And so many people are in our lives now whom we did not know when we began Sunflower River! So take a look through these images and see how much has changed on our little piece of this Earth in just these ten years!

This is a long photo post. I am not sorry.

Garden, field & barn, September 2007

Same view today:

you can just about make out the barn, back there, behind the garden.

the garden, from west looking east to Isleta Blvd, Sept 2007

I’m including this one because it shows the difference in our land SO acutely, but I could not retake this shot, because it was nothing but a solid wall of apricot leaves, beans, and sunflowers. maybe next month, after the sunflowers have come down, and you can see the greenhouse & the earthbag wall from the garden again?

i think this is my very favorite contrast set, in all of these:
Apricot tree, freshly planted, March 2008

Apricot tree, Sept 2017

the cold frames by the Gate of Possibility, with bonus turkeys, 2009

that same spot today, complete with Alan & Rev:

just a wee little bit of intensive change has happened in this particular corner.

The Old Barn, Sept 2007 and Spring 2008

that neighborhood today:

my favorite shot of the Actual Barn from Sept 07.

and that view today, as best i can recreate it:

barn, barnyard, and driveway, Sept 2007

and (from slightly further back) Sept 2017

Barn Interior, 2007

and same corner, 2017

goat pen, sept 07

becomes peacock pen, Sept 17

the barnyard seen from the east side of the goat pen:

same view, i promise:

rabbit house, version 2 (rejected after major dog attack)

has been transformed into a poultry pen

chicken pen, Sept 07

creating the garden, January 08


i’m noticing this theme of “greenery grows large and eats the view.”

Cottage backyard & yurt area, Sept 07

from a slightly different angle, because my yurt is exactly right there now

Grandfather Cottonwood seen from the pasture, Fall 2007

same view right now:

The ritual ground is behind me, in this image:

and now. i couldn’t get the dog to cooperate, so here’s a cat.

another angle on the ritual ground, as it began. for realz.

and now.

front fenceline, Spring 2008

and now:

my beloved VW the AutoKineton, and my yurt in its original skin (also called “why Kat doesn’t try to sew architecture anymore”)

and, from a different angle, Tremaine and the yurt as it presently stands:

herb garden, August 08

Sept 17. it has apparently gotten slightly overgrown.

the original compost bins:

and a complete redo, which Rev is finishing right this minute:

some indoor transformations: The Cottage livingroom the week we bought the place, during the “rip the carpet out and refinish the floors” phase

the same corner of the Cottage livingroom, several remodelling efforts later

more of the Cottage floor situation

and now.

Building the Coyote Fence, 2008, with Tristan & Alan

and now:

and the other side, with Jenny and one of our very first wwoofers, Joanna:

and now.

and this all doesn’t even touch the Mahazda renovation project! that’ll have to be a whole ‘nother post sometime.

and, just for narrative closure today, one last kitty picture.

Sunflower River is turning ten years old!

It’s a little hard to believe how fast the time has flown by. We read a homesteading book our first year, that advised us that we would over-estimate what we could get done in one year, and under-estimate what we could accomplish in ten. There are definitely things we thought we would have gotten to by now (goats? possibly mythical, hypothetical goats?), and also things we have accomplished that were barely on our original ten-year plan (giant earthbag property wall! buying and rennovating an entire ‘nother house!)

A couple things we’ll be doing to mark this anniversary — first, our Harvest Festival this year, on September 4th (yes, Monday of Labor Day!) will be a celebration of our birthiversary. I’m going to go back through the archives on this blog and find the five-year photo retrospective i did a while ago, and take new photos from those same angles, and post a ten-year photo retrospective, documenting the scope of the changes we have enacted on and with our land.

Aside from that — what are your ideas? How should we celebrate this? We’re open to hear suggestions! Especially for things that could be done at the Harvest Fest. Feel free to comment here!

***

We bought the first property that became Sunflower River in September 2007. It was 3.5 acres of weeds and potential, with some slightly-ratty outbuildings and one little house shaded by giant cottonwood trees. Ten years later, it is four acres, two yurts, two houses, a big garden, a few weeds (but not a patch on those first couple years!), two ritual circles, a dance ground, a greenhouse, intern housing, some pretty solid outbuildings (including three that we added), and a pond — all shaded by giant cottonwood trees. and it’s still got a lot of potential. and we’ve still got a lot of plans for it.

so many intentional communities don’t make it this far. I’m very proud of Sunflower River, that we have talked through (and continue to talk through!) our differences, and remained committed to our core vision and our integrity as a group.

Here’s that vision, still just as true as the day we wrote it:

Sunflower River is joyfully creating a sanctuary wherein we embody and promote sustainability, spirituality, adaptability, and safety, within ourselves, our community, our land, and Gaia.

It has held up well to the rigors, trials and triumphs of the years.

here’s to the next ten!

monsoon season

it’s been a long summer already, and hot, but the monsoons finally seem to have arrived! fingers crossed that they stay, now that it is raining. the farm received a good gentle soak last night, adding up to a half inch of rain for July — not exactly a record, but an awful lot better than nothing, and a good start to the season.

rainy garden:

meanwhile, the peacock has shed his tail (feathers still for sale, $2.50 for 3 feathers, please email Kat directly).

this artichoke bloomed and went to seed in the garden:

tomatoes are ripening:

there are toads everywhere (but not quite enough to keep up with the grasshoppers, alas)

hawks adorn the skies
(this one is a young Swainson’s Hawk)

our stalwart crew has canned many many pots of nectarine, apricot and peach jam:

the horse next door had a baby:

monsoon clouds are one of the best things ever:

except maybe for heart-shaped monsoon rainbows:

we have sunflowers with Sun-Flowers:

and my cat is a-door-able.

and i’m not sorry for the puns.

Without Net Neutrality, You Will Not Be Able to Read this Blog.

Join the resistance! Contact the FCC today! You can file comments on Pai’s plan to gut net neutrality rules at this link. Click “Express” to write a comment directly into the FCC form, or click “New Filing” to upload documents. Initial comments are due July 17, and reply comments (in which you can respond to other people’s or organizations’ comments) are due August 16. https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express use Filing number 17-108.

a new pen for peafowl

As you’re no doubt aware, in 2013 we adopted a rescue peacock who needed a home. His name is Elliott, and he has his own facebook page. He wandered the property for a couple of years, and then we decided he was lonely and we acquired some peahens. That took more structure than we were quite ready for — they kept leaving our property and joining our neighbor’s flock. The neighbor finds this to be a problem, so we got busy and sorted them into a pen, the largest one we had on hand, which was the turkey-pen carport extension from a couple years ago, originally built to allow our turkey flock more room to roam when they are penned.

so of course, with peafowl in there, we don’t have that space available for the turkeys, which takes us back to the high-pressure space before we built that pen — a real problem for the sanitation and overall well-being of our birds. we needed the carport-exension back. and the peafowl didn’t quite have enough room there — no space to fly, very little sunlight (it’s a roofed shady-space, also desirable for the turkeys, whose main pen has plenty of sun).

so we worked our way around to the decision that if we are going to breed peafowl, they need more space. this spring, in an ongoing effort to solve these types of issues and also clean the property up, we cleaned out the junkyard we affectionately call “the goat pen,” named after what Jenny calls The Prophesied Goats — the goats we intend to eventually get, but never yet have fully prioritized. the Goat Pen had long since become a dumping ground for random construction supplies, yard-related objects, and all manner of miscellany.

So first, we built a “boneyard” for supplies we draw from and will use, and then we organized that with some degree of actual rigor (pallets go here, fencing goes there, etc). This helped us locate the earth inside the goat pen. Part of the barn remodel process ejected more material into the goat pen, so we had to sort that out as well.

It took two workdays to clean up the pen, and begin fencing it for peafowl. We added a layer of chicken wire to the fence all the way around, and then doubled its height as well, so the birds would have 7′-8′ or mroe of clearance at all places.

Finally, yesterday, we roofed the entire enclosure, which is 40’x75′ at its widest points, with bird netting. This took five people all day, and there were points in the day where I despaired of ever finishing it, but ultimately, all five Stewards got involved and we got it done! We set up nesting boxes for the peahens (hope springs eternal! we want them to set a nest and raise chicks.) and moved their food and water over.

Then Alan captured the peafowl from the smaller pen, and brought them over one at a time to move into their new digs.

sunlight!

as of last night, they had begun settling comfortably into their new home. let’s hope they’re comfortable enough to set a nest!

The Great Barn Remodel of 2017

For some years, we’ve badly needed to remodel our barn. One slow step at a time, things have been shifting — first we found these blue plastic outdoor storage bins for animal feed, so now each animal has feed stored near its pen, and we no longer have a feed vs rats problem, and we no longer store feed in the barn. So we decommissioned the wire feed cage in which we used to store feed bags (and still contended with rats getting into it all the time!) We also acquired the potting shed and moved all the garden supplies, as well as camping supplies, and for a while painting supplies (which are now in the better-insulated pump house) out of the barn into it. But meanwhile, we were remodelling Mahazda, and a wide array of remodel-related items landed in the center of the only open floors pace in the barn, starting with a giant pile of great hardwood flooring intended for other projects, on top of which a pile of miscellaneous storage accumulated until the pile was over 7′ tall in places. not functional! and we had this half-wall separating the workshop area from the feed area… but we no longer needed to store feed in there.

photos of the “Before”:

So this spring, as part of our “catch up on lingering projects” year, we decided to empty it and remodel it. We scheduled a workday for our whole group to clean it out and make executive decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of (building materials we’ve stored for 10 years with no use in sight? freecycle, already! we had a very busy freecycling day, and are much better for the lightened load!).

these all became destined to become someone else’s backyard fence project — a much better use than sitting around in the back of our barn taking up space.

And when we had the barn emptied out, then Rev pretty much single-handedly tackled the task of turning the barn’s full floor-space into a functional workshop.

It took some thinking.

And some creative re-invention of space.

and some help from the cat.

and a great deal of building of benches, counters and shelves.

but after a while, the space took shape.

(note how this chop-saw is level with the counter. nice, eh? safer, too.)

and having taken shape, order emerged.

there’s room to work! a place for everything, and room for expansion! and it’s considerably easier to find tools, to put them back where they belong, and to fully utilize the space. whew! brilliant work, Rev!

garden morning light

I’m getting ready to write more actual updates, but in the meantime, I woke up to the soft morning light in our beautiful garden this morning, and I thought you’d enjoy it too.